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A young man went on a violent spree at an Anchorage seniors’ complex.  An 88-year-old man fought him.

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May 15 – Stanley Sienda, 88, had just returned from his usual daily jog one afternoon in late April when he heard someone knocking on the door of his apartment in Chugach View, a public housing complex for Fairview seniors.

“I open the door,” Sienda said. “And someone grabbed me and bit me on the neck.”

He found himself clutching the ground with a stranger, a much younger man who was biting and kicking him with heavy shoes.

“I knew that person was really dangerous,” Sienda said this week, a nervous senior in an Alaskan Brewing Co sweatshirt and sweatpants. “I could feel his teeth on my eyebrow, my head, everything. .”

After what seemed like a long time to Sienda, he managed to free himself from the assailant and rush down the hall.

By the time police arrested Justin Koonuk, 24, he had assaulted four different people in the seniors’ apartments. Sienda was the last.

Koonuk is now charged with assault in this case. He also has an open assault charge from March, stemming from an incident where a police officer saw him punch a man in the face on a Midtown sidewalk.

The charging document from the April assaults says Koonuk went to the Chugach View apartments to drink in a resident’s room. At one point it went wrong and Koonuk allegedly grabbed a cane from his host and assaulted her and another man in the apartment with it. They managed to push him down the hallway, but Koonuk continued his tear through the building, punching another man who opened his door before climbing up and knocking on Sienda’s door.

Sienda was the most injured: he has broken ribs and deep bruises, and weeks later lacerations remain on his head and neck. Because the bites broke the skin, he will have to be tested for blood-borne diseases. Photos taken from his flat after the attack show streaks of blood and even a twisted pan in the struggle.

Born in Connecticut, Sienda traveled the country working on boats in Louisiana and as a machinist before driving a pickup truck to Alaska more than 20 years ago to settle down. At the age of 80, he still made annual summer trips to rucksack around Europe via a Eurorail pass. He says he runs the Chester Creek trail every day, sometimes to Lake Otis. But a stranger violently bursting into his own apartment?

“I’m not a scary guy,” he said. “But I knew he was trying to kill me.”

The rampage has left elderly residents of one of Anchorage’s largest public housing units on edge. Another resident started a petition to management raising concerns about safety, and 50 or 60 people have signed so far, residents say.

Mary Wolcoff is a receptionist at the Anchorage Senior Center, a separate day center where many Chugach View and Chugach Manor residents spend time. She describes herself as a longtime friend and advocate for Sienda.

Wolcoff says security isn’t good enough at Chugach View. While residents have key card access and doors are locked automatically, there are simply too many entrances and many opportunities for people to slip behind residents unnoticed.

“There are four or five young men coming in and smoking marijuana in the laundry room,” Wolcoff said. “They challenge the locals to face them. And you know, the locals are too scared to face them.” (Building management says they reviewed video from hundreds of cameras and found no evidence of people sneaking around to smoke in the laundry room.)

Sienda said someone ripped a phone out of the wall and ripped out a slot machine. In the morning, he found groups of people sleeping at the entrance to the building. The problems seem to have accumulated over the past two years when Sullivan Arena became a mass care haven.

The apartments are owned and operated by Alaska Housing Finance Corp., a pseudo-government agency that uses federal funding from HUD.

Cathy Stone, director of public housing for Alaska Housing Finance Corp., says Chugach View is secure. The man who assaulted four elderly people was invited into the building, she said – he didn’t sneak out.

“We don’t really dictate what guests (residents) can or can’t have. It’s their choice,” she said. “We don’t control this. But we warn people that it could compromise their accommodation.”

Low-income seniors pay 28% of their income for a one-bedroom apartment at Chugach View or Chugach Manor. The waiting list is formidable: some 827 people are waiting for a place.

The apartments have full-time property managers, maintenance staff and someone whose only job is to attend to residents’ concerns, she said.

“Safety and security is essential for us, for all of our residents,” she said. “And yes, we take it seriously. We respond quickly and address those concerns. And it will be managed.”

In 2007, residents and police raised concerns about drug dealing, theft, harassment, weapons and even sexual assaults in apartments, according to Daily News reports at the time.

“I usually don’t come out of my apartment unless we have bingo,” one resident told the newspaper.

At the time, this was attributed to a decline in the number of older people allowed to live in apartments. Today, the average age is 68 years old.

Wolcott, the receptionist who is a friend of Sienda, said the increase in criminal activity around social housing is worrying for the vulnerable people who live there. She sees groups of much younger men hanging around neighborhoods as the culprits.

“I wish they would look at their grandparents and say, ‘I wouldn’t want to do that to my grandparents,'” she said.

Koonuk could not be reached for this story. Court records show his bail was set at $2,500, but he remains in Anchorage jail. Sienda says he will be at every court appearance.

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